Higgins Pushes Back on Flight Safety Foundation’s Lax Position on Pilot Training Requirements
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) is pushing back on a position paper recently released by the Flight Safety Foundation which suggests reducing the flight time requirements for new airline pilots.
Higgins responded, “There is no give-and-take on flight safety. Any effort to give up the flight safety improvements, based on lessons learned after Flight 3407 and recommendations made by professionals at the NTSB, threatens the lives of passengers. Families in our community know the pain of what happens when tired, inexperienced pilots step into the cockpit. We’ve successfully fought to protect other families from that pain and we’re not going back.”
The Flight Safety Foundation writes, “It cannot be assumed that critical skills and knowledge will be obtained only through hours in the air.” They go on to say, “Today’s outstanding safety record in commercial aviation is largely the result of a wide variety of diligent efforts by thousands of aviation professionals around the world…It is not the result of any one factor, including any particular change in the hours requirement for pilot experience.”
Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed in Western New York on February 12, 2009, killing all aboard and one on the ground. The families of Flight 3407 victims turned their loss into advocacy. With their help, in 2010 Congress enacted landmark aviation safety reform and the strongest passenger protections to date. In the nearly nine years since, the United States has experienced zero commercial aviation fatalities on domestic airlines.
Prior to the Flight 3407 tragedy, pilots with as few as 250 hours of flight time were being qualified to fly commercial airliners. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), in their review of the incident, identified serious safety deficiencies within the regional airline industry, including exhausting schedules, inexperienced pilots and insufficient training. Comprehensive FAA Reauthorization legislation put new rules in place to prevent fatigue and implement new training standards including instruction on the prevention of aircraft stalls and the pilot qualification rule, which requires pilots to hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, typically attained through 1,500 hours of flight time.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), including its funding and authority, is currently operating under an extension, with the FAA’s authorization set to expire on March 31, 2018. Congress must pass FAA reauthorization legislation before that deadline to continue FAA operations. Some in the airline industry, and now the Flight Safety Foundation, are advocating for provisions that roll back flight time requirements for new pilots.